Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Pretty Blue Guns. Armed, disarming, and dangerous.

what happens when two precocious musicians get together to jam about the good and evil in us all? Dirt, baby; a project becomes a living dream and hearts burn up to the smoky, home-grown blues rising out of leafy Stellenbosch...

“Lose your dream / you will lose your mind.”- Rolling Stones, Ruby Tuesday

Who are The Pretty Blue Guns? They’re trouble wrapped up in a whole lot of sense and sensuality. They’re what you get when you put drummer Lucas, son of the legendary Vernon Swart (of Valiant Valiant Swart fame - also a drummer) with an avid, avo-eating Rolling Stones fan (André Leo), throw sticks and strings and a mic in the mix, add Greg Thompson on bass and Brandon Visser on guitar. They’re grounded, genuine guys and their music has gravitas – it’s genius without the god complex.

Besides being the freshest blues rock band in a none horse town and having more charisma than tutu in a madiba T, their slow, surging songs are giving Indie enthusiasts a deeper musical perspective without skimping on the exigencies of emotional indulgence quinessential to the movement (yes, it's a movement, not a genre. but we can argue about that another time. after Avontoer, maybe!).

The four typically twist time around their baby fingers - going to gigs from age 7, finishing school at 16, taking 36 hour drives from Kwazulu folk fests to Coke fests for a once in a lifetime Muse. And through it all, love and learning are on repeat. Obviously we want to know more. Jezebel and a few Jacks looked into the depth of their beings. Or was that their lager?

The first thing that happens when you start a conversation with The Pretty Blue Guns is that the waiter hits you with doubles because your sign language sucks, and you lose track of time. The second thing is this : Lucas, Andre and Jezebel swapping notes somewhere in beneath the leaves on a sleepy (sozzled) Sunday afternoon...


Jezebel: Why Blues? Is it because you're black?
Lucas: Sometimes.
Andre : It's the greatest music I've ever heard. I like the honesty and simplicity of it. The Blues is our back-bone, almost like a canvas, and we play around with it to suit our style.


Jezebel: New bands like noise. Ani Difranco likes saying 'half of learning how to play is learning what not to play.' Are you finding that the spaces between notes have their own thing to say?

Andre : Oh yeah! Keith Richards always said that the day he found his own style (circa '68) was when he learnt to play less. You gotta give songs space to breath. Also, with spaces in songs, you have the possibility of improvising and keeping it fresh. I'd hate to play the same songs the same way every night!


Jezebel: You sing about angels, devils, whores and kids with power tools. These are your friends?

Andre: haha... I guess they're my friends from my imagination. I've always liked lyrics as a narrative of some kind. People like Tom Waits got me hooked on that idea. I love making up stories to try bring across what I'm trying to say with a song. Sometimes you don’t know where the hell these words come from, but that's often when they come out the best.


Jezebel: in track 2 of Dirt (debut EP) you sing about someone with flowers in her hair. Who is Mary?

Andre: She's pretty much every girl that feels there's something seriously twisted and fucked up about looking up to people like Paris or the Playboy bitches.


Jezebel: There's a lot about love in the lyrics, but the lesson is often a simple truth (or a subtle threat). So which is more powerful? Metaphor or romance?

Andre : Love will always be main focus of music. I mean, who doesn’t feel love? I think looking at love (and its sister, Lust) from different angles is when interesting things start happening.


Jezebel: And in music, which is more powerful - rhythm or melody?

Andre: Rhythm. It's a feel thing. Melody is what comes after. The more worked-out part of the song writing process. But rhythm isn't something that comes from your head. It's in your bones.


Jezebel: Who left school at 16? And how? On earth? (and why didn't I? sigh…)

Andre: I did. I went to a private school and worked a bit harder than some people so I could get out. I wouldn’t have made it another 2 years. It was like this elephant in the road and just wanted out of the way ASAP. Without dropping out of course... it wasn’t really that difficult to tell the truth.


Jezebel: Imagine Brandon's been abducted by aliens, and you're due on stage. Do you :

a) borrow a violinist and hope there are a lot of country fans in the crowd

b) do a gumboot dance and wish everyone happy diversity day before mooning them and running away

c) cry

d) do an impromptu acoustic set

Lucas: I would pick A, while Greg does B and Andre does C,
because that's how we roll.

Andre: Yeah, an acoustic set probably (d). Just an improvisation vibe maybe.

Jezebel: why?

Andre: a) I don't own a pair of gumboots

b) Our acoustic stuff is much better than our dancing.


Jezebel: If you woke up one morning in a perfect world, would you still make music?

Lucas : Yeah. It would probably be pretty boring music, though. We would have to screw things up a bit just to make the world a bit more interesting...

Andre: Of course [I’d still make music]. It wouldn’t be perfect in my eyes if I didn’t play.


Jezebel: Describe your perfect world.

Andre: A world where people just respected each other would be great. And if people didn’t agree with each other, they just stayed out of their hair. In the words of one of my good friends : 'less religion. More good karma.'


Jezebel: You have young and old fans. That begs for a(nother) road trip. Tell us about the one that starts 18 Dec and finishes in 2009...

Andre: This all started with the idea of just playing a show or 2 at the time of the Matric holidays. It's kinda boomed! The Avontoer is something we've been waiting for a long while. 2 weeks with some of the best bands and best people we know. It's gonna be interesting to see how the country takes us in...


Jezebel: Would you do a tour of totally derelict and out-of-the-way towns just for the hell of it? (To test your music on bokkies and boere in the bundus?)

Andre: No, don't think those cats would go for it. Remember that guy the other night saying we're going to Hell? Imagine those in a herd!! Ouch.

Lucas : I would totally be amped for something like that. Also maybe a township tour and a few shows on a ship. Yeah, I want to play gigs on a ship.


Jezebel : George (Taxi Violence), I think, once mumbled something about Blues being the basis of all modern music. Agree? Undecided? Indifferent? What's Blues for you?

Andre: Definitely. It's music (well, modern music) in it's purest from. I could go on about how it affects everything, but I think people should read a book on it, or watch a film. Scorsese did a great series of 7 films about the significance and origin of the Blues. Well worth checking out.


Jezebel: Who would you like to invite on stage to perform with you?

Andre: Locally, I'd love to see The Guns and Taxi do collaboration. Also, Gerald Clark. A friend of ours who is hands down the best blues singer in SA.

Lucas : Tom Waits or Jack White would be nice, thank you.


Jezebel : A band. Is more than a project. It's a family. It's a four-way relationship. So how do you keep the peace?

Andre : We're best friends. So it's pretty easy. We dont really have to try. If we didn’t get along, we wouldn’t be friends.

Lucas : We have been doing this thing for a few years now, so we know one another well enough to know when to shut up and when to pass the salt.


Jezebel: whiskey or wine?

Andre: Wine is fine, but whiskey is quicker... haha. Who said that again?


Jezebel: What are your favourite Stones' lyrics?

Andre: Today? "Diamond rings, Vaseline, you give me disease! I lost a lotta love over you..."

Blues for believers? Amen.

Pretty Blue Guns Website

Face them:

Myspace them

or catch them sleeping on the beach somewhere along the coast on Avontoer oh nine

Avontoer is over, now. A few bullets about the blues boys on the bus and/or butt naked here(no, ok, we didn't cover their asses)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Foto Na Dans : a raw retrospective

[photograph taken by alex fourie]

a lens on foto
na dans

wow. i'm listening to le roi nel singing soldaatvolk off Foto Na Dan's very first EP. they didn't even title it, and it's not listed in their discography. and while we all come from somewhere, not all of us can call our roots an absolute colletor's item. Foto Na Dans might not agree with me, but this is one of them. a genuine gem.

their musical evolution is next to naked in the four tracks replete with rudimentary production and raw passion. it maps out the flow of their finesse from a sometimes stuttering start stitched with talent and trouble to a synthesis that simplifies the soul. it has solid bass lines. humid, enthusiastic drums still acquiring the art of silence and still witless to the fact that rushing doesn't get you where you want to go. finger licking strings, delicate, driven. trumpet slides and soars. ordinary electro keys? you better believe it - before they refined those trips and trills, before they made them a subtle signiture.

The slightly sarcstic, amper pastiche 'Elelktro' sounds like nothing you'd naturally ascribe to Foto now, but when you follow it with their 2007 debut Intervensie or 2008 EP, Pantomime Op Herwinbare Klanke, you can't help but hear history howl. so don't nobody tell me gorgeous, important, unusual things can't come from upstart indie ever again. from big ideas and small beginings comes beautiful things. it's been a long stretch from sindroom to slottoneel.

These days we know they've found the flow. we didn't know that they didn't always have it. (the blindness of those not burdened by the boon of music making, perhaps?) At its core and completion, Foto Na Dans offers a solid sound that they continue to disrupt with interrogative integrity. it's this that makes them one my favourite melodic vortices. their sound is synergised; they've found their formula, and they grow and change with it every time they play. and from these first grooves on the record, the one who's grown the most is the one i love the most on stage. Le roi. the voice of/ the face of/ the foto na dans of his own spiritual unfolding.

in this original recording for Soldaatvolk he sounds almost adolescent. he uses lazy, round vowels and thick exigencies instead of the articulate progressions we know now. a sudden suprise is hearing his vocal chords steeped in cathartic hollers, raw growls and grating snaps. imagine if he'd gone retro rock on us! or punk. there would be no foto na dans. and no dans, either.

his diction and elocution have evolved aeons between that EP and their debut album. since i first heard Foto Na Dans at their Mercury launch at the end of 2007, i've been in helpless awe of his exquisite ennunciation and that effortless integration of emotion, breath and energy on stage. he takes the core emotion in the compositions and the power in their lyrics and melodies to another level. his voice evokes things i can't find poetry for.

of course, it's not effortless. there have been times when he's had to hold his tongue to heal. he's given his voice professional workouts. it's nice to know that hard work, training, and quality tools can pull the sacred out of the seed. the lesson is love what you love, even if nobody else does. and believe in yourself.

Foto Na Dans regularly tour the country in a dedicated effort to reach people across the land. at the time of typing, they're sitting with 75 souls less than 7000 on their Facbook fanpage. tell me that's not epic for a band from Belville that isn't even a toddler yet.

keep growing gentle men. you are gold.

p.s. update. 3 days later. 3 away from seven thousand on the Face ( )(which reminds me that Rhythm Records have pointed out that this band's fans and CD sales rise relative to every show and tour of theirs. )

welcome home, Foto!

Friday, October 10, 2008

one liners

alternative politics :

"Don't wait for 2009 to vote! - vote NOW" Kwani Experience, re the 2008 Metro FM Awards for Best Group.

Monday, October 6, 2008

mushroom pasta and gumboots - RTD2008

mocking the pansies
fucking the meisies
mopping the maybes
stopping the dailies
docking the ladies
swapping the crazies
shnaafing the Hazies
locking the lazies
hogging the Ladies'
Popping the puisies

authors :
jezebel (this round known as Daizibel)
He Is Erin

Friday, October 3, 2008

Giants and Gnomes

Ghosts flitter. Liquid drops. A hive-honeyed hum. The pierce and punch of a trumpet.

Once upon a time there was a slave church, and it filled each week with the worship of the unwanted. Between every pulpit Sunday it filled with silent screams of stolen spirit. And when one day there were no more slaves, it fell silent.

The ghosts stayed.

And then.

Came the prisoners of strange.

And because men play with life like it is a toy, they played with toys and brought them to life. Slowly the bewitched filled the gallery.

We looked up because there is heaven in it.
We sat up straight because there is god in us.
we moved because the ghosts were moving.

And we all let Mr Mombelli, Marcus, Mr. martin and Siya syncopate our souls with the rhythm of the Under. Snappily. Tightly. Moodily. Magically. Ever after.

Tell me the colour of the ceiling, and I’ll tell you if your ears were open.

p.s. There are still slave churches. But the dominee is within.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Daisies, not Dassies

So many festivals of late, you lucky fish!

rOctober opens with Rocking The Daisies - THE progressive* uBundu party. Last year’s gathering brought bands from all over SA; this year’s expand-a-band from 3rd - 5th of the month includes feel-good, soft rockers, Eagle Eye Cherry. (I'll bet an open blind they don't rock as hard as our Taxi boys.) Cloof Estate Wine Will blush and gush thousands of happy folk while band as diverse as Taxi Violence, Mama Know Nothing, Goldfish, 340ml and Fire Through The Window play to the open plains of the Kouebokkeveld. (yes, it is still cold, bring your fleece) . Comedians will make you laugh; musicians will make you dance, and if it’s the other way around, it must have something to do with beer breakfasts and champagne lunches!

Tickets Available ONLINE At Www.Rockingthedaisies.Com Outlets : Levi’s® Stores (Western Cape) , Selected Musica Stores , Hemporium , Butlers Pizza (Delivered With Any Pizza Order) , Rafikis , Noodlebosch (Neelsie). Damage : full weekend: pre-sale & online – R320, door – R370. Sat/sun: pre-sale & online – R220, door – R250. Sun: door only– R90

*newsflash get more green and save some! Half price tickets to those who cycle to the festival from Cape Town. So park your jet plane on the mountain if you’re coming from upcountry, and get on down to the best fun under the reluctant Spring Sun.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

oppi koppi oh oh eight

Dust, dassies and dirty musicians

Dear darling dassies and elephants and rockers and sycophants and... Well, you know who you are…

Yissis! But we’re brilliant when we’re in the Highveld. We drove up in droves, set up camp under thorn trees, and hardly slept. That’s the royal we, mind you – Mordor, music and media citizens alike. We washed under taps (well, almost) or didn’t wash at all, got trashed, littered like good, middle-class majority whites, soaked ourselves in sound and sun, and sang together. The best one- liner I heard has got to be the most ubiquitous, too –



(And that includes ‘we like your ass’ from a band I like. Is it because I’m black?)

En route to Oppi

The magic started in the car on the way. My mate Bastion doesn’t like his beauty sleep, and spent the night before the trek mixing mix tapes for the drive from Jozi to dassieville. We were listening to a Dylan classic that Georgia governor, Jimmy Carter, ostensibly based his knowledge of agricultural labour theory and reform on(It sounded like Johnny Cash on a happy day). Exactly as we were harmonizing the chorus lines about brothers and sisters and hardworking misters, we drove past the song’s namesake. I kid you not. Maggie’s Farm. That was us, whistling out the window at the high speed of forty kilometers per hour in the Oppi koppi Q, criss-crossing freeways out of Joburg in an attempt to get there faster. It failed, of course, but we did overtake the same people seven times!. How did we know they were dassies too? There’s something about pillows and overlywrapped packet packages and joints squashed up against windows pressed with too many people and their interesting hairstyles that’s such a giveaway on the not-so-open, still-pretty-urban road. Thing is, we were wondering about that not-to-scale map, and the fact that Jozi never seems to end! (well, it IS six thousand square kilometers, after all. And if that daunts you, console yourself with the fact that it’s also a veritable garden, what with its green belt being one of the biggest in an urban setting in the world. Not that it’s so green this time of year.) Anyway, that was when Oppi bit. Big time.

And it was my first time. Also I’m impressionable. AND I’m a band whore according to cokeheads. Why, then, do I only give it seven out of ten? The line-up was wicked and the showers were warm (at 7 am, they were; ask Shower Boy!) I’ll tell you why. Because I’ve rocked the socks off the Daisies in the Kouebokkeveld (with a vaguely adequate line-up) and even fell in love there, and I’ve showered naked with boys and girls together at Bombomella (Israel, the unholy land) and even fell on my face there, and both fests involved preplanning so exact that the carbon footprint was covered before it was even made, and the pumpkin plants were flowering all over the stalls when the fans arrived. Respectively. A great festival takes care of all angles – production, music, its party animals, and the poephols. Luckily Oppi had few of the latter, but it lacked a lot when it came to wires and tummy wares.

It seemed a fest of howyousay, niche niceties. The media tent was utterly wicked, facilitating a relaxed, professional space for media and musicians to meet and greet, talk shop, talk shit, and get the shot and then have some shots (free bar; essential). Only a few halfwit beginner ‘critics’ abused the good intentions of the Levi’s Original Music Magazine slash 24 dot com slash Speakerbox team, and were duly told where to put their pouting, potty mouths and misplaced, malignant intentions. Amen to gentle men. Silver bullets belong in barrels.

The media area was also the spot from which UJFM became the early morning wake-up call to those who weren’t already woken by the freezing cold, neighbouring beats, or caterwauling cretins who refused to put the night before to bed. I wasn’t impressed by the DJs, their half-baked play lists (hello? This is SA, 2008, not somewhere first world, 1999) or their cheery promptitude (well, we’ll make it a word, just for today), but I was delighted that there was constant commentary around the whole fest that made for a family vibe. Guess they were right about what you can and can’t choose...

That choice thing again became an issue (sigh. We have such issues with it here, have you noticed? First not enough of us had it, now all of us have it and we don’t know what to do with it so we let bigshots tell us what to do with carrots and showers instead while they don't fix the power crisis, and we use condoms to carry water…) The line-up was wicked, I thought. Representative enough to please people whose tastes stretch beyond the borders of rock, but selective enough to choose more or less decent acts within the most popular genre bracket. i wished bands like The Sleepers and our soon to be overseas Josh Grierson were included for kudos. The band wish list voted by you (which, btw, it turns out the original winner declined to be part of because what they offered him and his peeps to play wouldn’t have covered their travel costs there and back) was lame. It sounded like noise, from start to finish. Oh, I lie; Jurgemeister was almost decent, belting out hardhat heaviness that broke the Thursday ice. But Friday and Saturday made up for it with so much choice, a wise music lover was hard-pressed to decide. I focused on bands I hadn’t seen, bands I love and must always see, and getting enough sleep to write about the bands my editor thought I should see (he was, for the most part, right, but I will never forgive him for making me miss out on hotstix). Reviews on levis here:

Overall (levis version)

Dave Ferguson

foto na dans


kwani experience

zebra & giraffe

josie field

fire through the window

As you can see, I wasn’t bowled over by everyone, but that’s more or less the way it goes, isn’t it? If we all liked the same stuff, we wouldn’t go to music festivals, would we? Or would we?

And was it my imagination or were audiences quiet? No, wait, for the purposes of watookal, let’s use a diplomatic word like… meditative… or contemplative… or idunno, introspective. (diplomacy is my new hobby, and I’m bad at hobbies) Oppi is not the time for introspection, I promise you! Even the former drummer of a famous up-and-coming act and the former lover of the same act were wise enough not to dwell on things too much during the dusty daze. Days. Daze. And no, I’m not going to tell you who they are. I’m not in it for the story, you realize? (that one’s for you, Mr 13 :31) Perhaps we’re still getting used to the idea of freedom of expression, and it takes more than a day or two of liquor and sun and ice to crack our lekker, lacquered shells? There’s hope yet, to be sure, but it feels like the music (re)public is a little intimidated? Come on guys, they’re doing this for you!


Most spectacular Kidofdoom

Most anticipated foto na dans

Most rewarding josie field (for musical growth)

Most surprising new academics (finally a band to dance to, and break your shoes instead of your neck)

Most rock & roll taxi violence

Most refreshing voodoo child

Most underrated HoneyB (our favourite black, mid-tempo House DJ!)

Most kak idontknow, I don’t wager over the contenders, I just block my ears.

Speaking of wagers, I won my first game of poker ever with a lot of help from my friends (well, back then before Saigon's 'calamari' and duck curry poisoning I still thought I had some), and while everyone covered sharp teeth with sweetly smiling lips and said nice things like beginners luck (you know, like it's charity or something), I realized that gambling and intuition have a lot in common. As do acting and winning! I went shopping with the cash. Of course. I mean, what else do those of my ilk do – work? As if. A baby blue dress for an open blind. Not bad for an Oppi virgin!

Besides the juicy stories fed me by the rotten social grapevine that is skinder and kakpraat, there were a lot of GOOD one-liners and stories, and some were captured here :

(you’ll recognize yours truly even if you haven’t had the pleasure…)

oh! and honourable mention to the most fascinating stranger (who also packs a wicked punch in her interviews, and gets renowned egomaniacs to actually SAY the bullshit they believe about their band's music)

Michelle Marais, SA Tunes

Sound is important, and it’s not easy to get right at a fest because of tight schedules and high band turnovers. So you might’ve thought that after ten years, Oppi would’ve sorted that out, chosen the best sound guys they could afford, and had enough technicians on hand to fix faults. They didn’t, at the smaller stages. Repeatedly. I’m not informed enough to know whose fault it is, but as I’ve heard most of the acts I saw in various other venues before, I know that it was either the sound guys or the sound systems. And that is simply not good enough. Luckily the big stage was packed with enough power to blow up a small town, and put its energy to good use for acts like Taxing Violets, The two twos, Aching etc.

Food was kak. Crap. Horrible. Who eats fast food 24/7? Come on. Sort it out. And get more stalls, too.

The only reason I didn’t kill the loudmouths who played bad music at the break of dawn was that I was working, and so I was up before them. But know that you are the spawn of Satan’s spoof and next year I will hose you down with honey for the ants to come and eat to your bones.

While I’m ranting, here’s a brief list of What NOT to do at Oppi :

Ø Erect a tent on top of someone else’s unless of course you want them to move away, in which case it worked. If you arrive in the pitch dark and can’t see, have the human decency to feel about a bit with your hands; it’s probably the only time you’ll be allowed to, anyway.

Ø Take pictures of people butt naked if they happen to forget they’re in public while they’re changing on their doorstep. It’s illegal. For you, and them. Only they can sue you, and all you can get out of them is a little public embarrassment.

Ø Ask for drugs from your bosses, and your boss’s boss.

Ø Walk barefoot. Get on someone’s shoulders.

Ø Forget your sunscreen. It may not be as sexy as they make it out to be, but Oppi is HOT.

Absolute chaos is an oxymoron, and there were lots of those at the fest, though nobody was violent, and moon bags left in the middle of the road to seduce recovering thieves were ignored until their hung-over owners crawled back to them again. By day three (or is it four?) faces were grubby, eyes were bloodshot, and asthmatics were sick of wearing bibs around their noses and mouths just to be able to breathe. My heartfelt empathies; I’m glad that my snot is back to its normal disgusting colour. And speaking of mementos and memories, all I came back with were two t shirts and lots of lovely band buttons, all of which I’ll wear with pride. Of course, the Foto Na Dans EP “Pantomime Op Herwinbare Klanke” isn’t a memento, it’s a trophy. I got it at Oppi, ; you can get yours at Rhythm Records.


p.s. going away for a bit had the uncanny effect of making me see Cape Town with new, more appreciative eyes. (is that possible? Ok, yes, its winters SUCK) back in Jozi waiting for Kulula to wake up or go to sleep or whatever it is it needs to do before I can come and polish my tush on its faux leather, lime seats, I’m thinking, god, I couldn’t live here. I need reference points – something to remind me of forever (mountains, and the high, crystal skies), something to remind me of finity (the oceans, effectively drowning our sorrows and we like to think our carbon footprints (or is it the other way round?)). As the crime capital of various statistical analyses, it doesn’t seem like the wisest place in the world to let irritating realities like energy limits plunge whole roads into darkness, but truth hurts. This might be the most developed metropolis in Africa, and the business capital of SA, but it lacks a lot. I’m back to the Mother city, secure in the insight that we really have a blessed lifestyle. And the majority of good music, too!

Now, if we could just play nicely together in this little fishing village, it would be unbeatable. Having said that, this is the very last time I am going to mention the lowQ muso who has decided to tell nasty lies about me in some kind of stupid attempt to bolster his ego. Worst was that he spread his seed to bigmouths with small brains whose main job, it seems, is to encourage gratuitous rudeness and unfounded aggression (and that’s coming from a girl? Sies) I would like to remind him that he was once in exactly the same position as he has put me in now (scuse the pun), and I treated him with respect and sincerity. And btw, bru, AWOL means Absent Without Leave, and as far as I know, you don’t miss a beat? Well, you’re gonna miss me.

So! Been there, got the t-shirt, see you at Daisies!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

FKBSS turns 2

feel it

expected unexpected grooves from FKBSS (yes, now we know where the BLK JKS got their titular inspiration from. or, we think we do, anyway!)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Intervensie... Inter alia... inter esting (a eulogic benediction )

It's been a long time coming...

You know you’re committed when you tune into the last precious days of an album being a band’s definitive product before the eruption of a new one relegates it to recovery, and it makes you cherish it all the more. It’s exactly inside this antici

pation that

a retrospective is ripe.

On the eve of Foto Na Dans’s new release I’m listening to “Intervensie” a lot, with a certain wry joy and a new appreciation for an incredibly balanced debut that has carried me though my own imbalances more than once (sometimes kicking and screaming, ja.) They have their own criticisms of its placement in their musical motif, but to my mind the collection of songs is both a spiritual biography and a kindergarten of elements that will find and refine itself into an unmistakably unique South African sound that knows the importance of the silence between notes.

The first bars of Oorywerige Gelowige open with a brittle air of expectancy that expands into a surge of strength. It’s an approach employed in breaths and breaks throughout the album. Between anthemic, singular notes and floods of full, five-piece sound, the poignant and powerful music is sprinkled with symbols of self realisation, restraint, and strains of self doubt. It’s run-through with focused emotional insights full of comfort and disconcertion, blood, belief, and deliverance from both. As an inaugural offering, the album is not a manifesto, but it has the essence of one in its elliptical intentions; and in hindsight, i believe, it will be recognized for its lucid insights that already prophecy Foto Na Dans’s feathering and unfolding.

Musically, the album faces the facts of life – separation, union, expansion, isolation, destruction, creation, continuation. Maybe, then, a discography that starts with “Intervensie” begs to continue with something associative like "Evolusie", but it’s more likely that the new EP will have an utterly poetic, slightly obscure title that makes perfect sense only on reflection. Their poetry is fluid, not stolid, after all. Their song names and stand-alone phrases don’t create billboards with dictatorial statements, they create psycho-spiritual co-ordinates that change as you change. Besides, some of their brightest brilliance is subversive; at the very beginning of a swelling journey, they’re already too sophisticated and seriously artful to wallow in self-congratulatory self-reference. Instead of talking to themselves or at the world, they start a conversation with it. They talk about things that want out, and things that remain true no matter how shaken one's core is. Things like the autumnal logic in Vergeet Van My and the exigent expulsion in Die Wals. Things that more and more people relate to.

Flying forty five degrees uphill towards the top since they launched “Intervensie” late last year, they had every right to believe their lyrics held a self-fulfilling prophecy, for better or for worse. The album sold with incremental intensity, the band got SAMA nods, MK 89 broadcast them, their Facebook fan-count got fatter by the show and festivals gobbled them up like a Box Street whore (respek, Jaxon Rice, for that line!). They believed, we believed, but we all bled for it, too. With admittedly no respect at all to the actual chronology of their lyrical narrative (or the order of the songs on the album), i'll go as far as to say it's a long journey from the sentiments in “Hou jou hande bymekaar / en glo die roes sal bedaar” to “My gedagtes behoort agter tralies / Daar’s net plek vir een in my kis”, and they had to take it. More than once. Metaphorically and literally, it seemed words manifested in reality; and while it wasn’t something they first appreciated, a distinct growth period was gifted them late summer 2008. Neither would you, really, no matter how much you believe in your music - it’s very difficult to argue with silence when there are no notes between to differentiate it from forever.

Forever didn't last long. Though the boys were forced to bend to the will of the Fates for a few worrying months while Le-Roi nursed ailing vocal chords, they'd been planning some breaks from public performance to write and record new material and catch up with their non-musical commitments, anyway. The infection effectively escalated their sabbatical, prolonged their silence and changed their tune. Right now, they’re putting finesse and power into recording the final throes of what has been a tumultuous and redefining period for them.

Guitarist Neil Basson on the changes:

“The incident evoked particular emotions, which actually inspired the writing process and steered the whole project into a new direction. I think that bands often find themselves in a comfortable groove that works; the hard part is breaking away and trying something new without the guaranteed success experienced before.”

“Our previous album had too many loose ends. Songs and concepts were a bit divergent, not really successfully capturing the ethos of our convictions concerning the musical integrity and message. We don’t regret releasing the album, it’s just a certain sense of artistic integrity that was lacking. [With the EP] we scaled down on the details, the focus shift was directed towards the album as a whole. Instruments were seen only as a means to achieve the final uniform sound, whereas “Intervensie” often relied on specific bursts of individual instruments to captivate the listener. “

Was it a relief to have Le-Roi back in business, or did it feel natural?

“A relief yes, we’re just happy that he’s making a good recovery. It felt different, but in a good way. It was the first time, basically since we had to cancel the Durbanville show (after the first song) that the five of us could sit together and just be friends again, outside of the band context.”

The seven new tracks due for release early August will put anthems like Die Wals and Oorywerige Gelowige deftly into the debutante category. Yet, in the face of an ageless album quickly being overshadowed by excitement over new material, the gentle men of Foto Na Dans are just getting into their talent and focus. i am convinced that this band has a lot to offer South African music on the whole and Rock in particular and is going to continue to break new musical ground.

So from this eulogy/ tribute / retrospective I’d like to extract a blessing for the EP to be : that what started with Intervensie continues without a score, and that fans and music lovers alike keep time with an open mind.

T.S Eliot said it best. “The end is where we start from.”

Here’s to both.

(Foto Na Dans launch and christen the new EP at Oppikoppi , 7 – 9 August 2008 )

(Intervensie will not be put to rest. not now. not ever.)

über-talented lead vocalist, Le-Roi Nel in studio midyear 2008
(photo by Alex Fourie)

(top photo by sean metelerkamp)